Did You Accidently Drink Hand Sanitizer? Health Effects, What To Do

Ingestion of alcohol-based sanitizers could lead to liver failure and even cause deaths as reported in the US

In the last seven days, two incidents of people accidently consuming sanitizer were reported from Maharashtra. While twelve children had to be hospitalised after health workers accidently administered sanitizer drops instead of the polio drops, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official mistook a sanitizer bottle for bottled water during one of the corporation's press conferences.

Although none of the people who consumed the hand sanitizer faced any adverse health reactions, it is important to understand the effects of ingesting sanitizer. Hand sanitizers are chemical products created by using ethyl or iso-propyl alcohol mixed with fragrances which when consumed have several side-effects. In some cases, even methanol is used in the products. The children were hospitalised after they started continuously vomiting but all twelve of them are now stable.

While the alcohol that humans consume for social drinking is ethanol, it is not 100% ethanol. Alcohol content in most alcoholic concoctions, ranges between 4% to 60% but which is mixed with several flavours, fermented from yeast and starch, and undistilled for beers and wines, while distilled for liquors and spirits. A higher proportion of alcohol consumption can lead to liver cirrhosis along with addiction.

Methyl alcohol as well as Isopropyl alcohol used for cleaning and in disinfectants are metabolized as toxic substances which cause liver failure.

Hand sanitizers have now become an integral part of people's lifestyles as they are part of the hygiene protocol to reduce the spread of COVID-19. There have been several reports where people have accidently or intentionally swallowed these alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory asking people to not ingest sanitizers in August 2020. This advisory was issued in light of four people dying as well as three undergoing visual impairments after they consumed sanitizers. There were 15 other cases of methanol poisoning reported across Arizona and New Mexico.

BOOM contacted Dr. Tushar Rane, Internal Medicine Expert, Apollo Spectra Hospital Mumbai, to understand the health impacts of sanitizer consumption and the immediate treatment of the same.

"As sanitizers contain alcohol which is more acidic and with higher alcohol content than the alcohol normally consumed by humans, the direct impact is that there could be burning in the gastrointestinal tract. Higher amount of acid in the stomach can also cause an acid reflex. However, the entire impact can only be assessed after using a bronchoscope or larynxoscope to check for the damage," Dr. Rane explained

Dr. Rane also emphasised that no home remedies should be followed in case of accidental swallowing. "The person should not be forced to vomit or drink water or any fruit juices to dilute the effect. They should be immediately taken to a hospital or a medical practitioner. If there are any perforations due to the ingestion, water and fruit juices can do more harm than good. "

Updated On: 2021-02-06T20:13:42+05:30
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